Developing Your Project

Welcome to the Developing Your Project section of our knowledge centre. If you are looking at this section, you will now have a feasible project and are ready to start developing it. This section of the resource is about giving you the information you need to proceed. Click on the links below for the information you are interested in.

Project Development
Detailed project plan
Business plan
Charitable Status
Resource monitoring equipment installed
Planning consent
Grid connection agreement

Detailed Project Plan

At this stage of your project it’s important to be organised and have a good project plan. We’ve already given you a planning chart for the first 3 modules, but it’s now vital to be organised and be aware of the actions you need to take for the remainder of your project. Our Detailed Project Plan is a useful guide to help you manage your time and plan your project for the rest of the modules. The guide follows the relevant actions on the Action Checklist and also gives a suggested time frame for each.

Relevant documents and links:
Detailed Project Plan


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Business Plan

It is crucial that your group has a business plan at this point in your project. There are many templates available on the internet, but our Business Plan Template offers you a simple guide to follow as you create you plan.

For an example of a business plan completed by a community group developing their own project, visit the Point & Sandwick Development Trust website.

Relevant documents and links:
Business Plan Template
Point & Sandwick Development Trust


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Charitable Status

At the beginning of your project you would have chosen your preferred Organisational Structure, taking into account that some structures can offer tax benefits if a charitable status is established. There are two relevant websites to look at which will give you the required information to gain charitable status, if your organisational structure permits it. One is the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and the other is the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

Relevant documents and links:
Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO)


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Planning Consent

At this point, you should note that any supplier will not enter meaningful discussions until planning consent has been granted.

The planning process can be a lengthy process so it is therefore advisable to start it early. Planning permission will need to be obtained for all large hydro and wind developments. Specific policy documents have been published by The Scottish Government relating to renewable energy with the aim of guiding local authorities while assessing renewable developments (SPP6 Renewable Energy is the most recent policy guide). For further information, please refer to The Scottish Government’s planning department’s website and especially look at the onshore wind turbines and the hydro schemes sections.

The size of your project will determine whether the planning application is dealt with by local authorities or the Scottish Government. The rules differ for hydro and wind, but the following indicates who would be processing your application.


Statutory bodies to be consulted for hydro developments:We advise any community to engage with statutory consultees at an early stage. This ensures a level of good communication and establishes dialogue with the authorities.

  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  • The local district salmon fisheries board
  • The Fisheries Electricity Committee (being amalgamated into SEPA Fish and Fisheries Advisory Group)
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Water
  • Historic Scotland

Statutory bodies to be consulted for wind developments:

  • Scottish Water
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • NATS
  • Civil Aviation Authority
  • Historic Scotland
  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Ministry of Defense
  • Health and Safety Executive

Relevant documents and links:
The Scottish Government’s planning department’s website


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Since there are no licenses required for wind turbines this section will focus on the licenses necessary for hydro schemes.

Any hydro scheme is assessed under the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) and is authorised as appropriate. The CAR control hydro projects since such schemes take water away from its natural course; they either abstract or hold water from water bodies.
In Scotland, three levels of authorisation exist for the abstraction and impounding of water. Each depends on the level of water concerned. These are:

  • General Binding Rules ( GBRs)
  • registration
  • licences

The General Binding Rules (GBRs) apply if you abstract:

  • less than 10m 3 of water per day
  • less than 150m 3 of water per year from boreholes.

The GBRs provide controls for low risk activities. SEPA do not need to be contacted. You must, however, comply with any rules specific to your activity.

You will need to register with SEPA for:

  • abstractions between 10m 3 and 50m 3 per day from inland waters such as rivers and lochs
  • abstractions of coastal or transitional water ( e.g. estuaries) of more than 10m 3 per day.

For projects that have a greater environmental risk, any hydro activity will be authorised using an abstraction licence. This allows for specific controls to be set out for the site.

If you abstract between 50m 3 and 100m 3 per day you will need a simple licence.
If you abstract more than 100m 3 per day you will need a complex licence.

The various levels of authorisations are associated with different fees. Information on these fees is available on SEPA's website and community groups should contact their local SEPA office to discuss their hydropower plans. The fees that are levied are based on licence application charges activities and annual subsistence charges. Please refer to the SEPA website for up to date information on fees.

Relevant documents and links:


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Grid Connection Agreement

Basic Grid Connection Process (for projects exporting to grid)

Initial discussions are held with District Network Operator (DNO).  Semi-formal discussions are carried out to ascertain the likely grid strength in the area of interest.  This is important to ensure grid connection costs are commensurate with project size.  A reasonable indication of the available export capacity and connection cost is usually possible from informal discussions, but the DNO may sometimes require a feasibility study, for which the customer pays: this can be several thousand pounds.

Formal application made for export capacity:
This is a written request to the DNO for a connection offer at a nominated location, for specified export capacity and connection voltage.  The request must be accompanied by technical data on SPD (standard planning data) sheets, for which the DNO will supply blanks.  The SPD data includes the type of generator, export capacity, voltage, etc.  Specialist help may be needed to complete the sheets.

Connection offer is issued:
The DNO is obliged by regulation to issue a connection offer within 90 days of the application.  The offer will include the cost and technical scope of the proposed connection, and the timescale to connect.  Normally the offer gives two options, namely ‘All Works’, whereby the DNO will carry out all the work required to plan and construct the connection, or ‘Non-Contestable Works Only’, in which the DNO does only those works that cannot be done by a third party.  In the later case an external contractor must be found to quote for the additional works.  Once the offer is issued the customer has a limited time in which to respond (e.g. SHEPD requires acceptance within 30 days).

Accepting the connection offer:
If the connection offer is accepted, the DNO will normally require a deposit to be paid to secure the agreement.  This may be the full cost of the connection, or a down payment, depending on the total cost.  This money is not strictly at risk should the project not proceed to construction (for whatever reason), as the deposit is returnable.  The deposit is, however, mandatory to secure a place in the connections ‘queue’.

Building the connection:  
Once the project is ready to proceed (all consents and funding in place) the grid connection can be built.  An All-Works connection should be relatively straightforward as the DNO has full responsibility to meet the connection timescale.  If the agreement is Non-Contestable then the customer has the responsibility of finding a suitably qualified contractor to do the work (including equipment supply and construction), and dovetailing with the DNO’s own timetable.  In the majority of cases small projects tend to be connected via All-Works agreements.

Issues Commonly Arising

The connection offer is very expensive: 
If the local grid network is weak the DNO may require to reinforce overhead lines or underground cables to enable the requested capacity to be connected.  Similarly the DNO may stipulate the use of reactive power control devices (Statcoms or DVARs) to limit voltage rise or suppress transients.  The cheapest connections will always be those into strong grids (in relation to project capacity), and where the generator is geographically close to existing grid infrastructure. 

The connection date is long: 
This problem arises where grid capacity has been fully subscribed in an area, and wider-scale transmission system reinforcements are indicated.  Connection dates of 5 years time or even 10 years are not uncommon. 

The project is ‘stuck in the queue’:
There will be cases where a project may be otherwise ready to build (finance and planning consent in place) but other projects in the area have ‘pre-booked’ the capacity and are essentially ahead in a queue for connection. 

The offer acceptance period is very short: 
The community developer may be given 30 days to accept an offer that requires a deposit of £100k (for example) to secure the connection, and in the same timescale assess the technical details of the connection.  There may be some room to negotiate an extension with the DNO if good reasons are given, and a few weeks’ grace may be offered.  At some point the developer must, however, be ready to place the refundable deposit.

The developer is unsure which connection option to accept: 
The Non-Contestable offer is usually (significantly) cheaper than the All-Works option, principally because the major hardware costs are open to tender and hence included in the latter.  The deposits may, however, be of a similar size (the Non-Contestable deposit may actually be higher).  In practice it can be hard to get competitive quotes for All-Works from utility approved contractors, making this option of limited value.   This is an area where current arrangements seem unsatisfactory, but if the All-Works connection cost is not a show-stopper it may be prudent to accept it.


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